Tunatazama - Community Monitors

Prepaid electricity units deductions By Nkululeko Dee

Electricity is one of the basic essential commodities which people cannot live without, and it is critical that everyone should have access to it. Poor members of the community of Jouberton are seem to be paying the price of services rendered to the communities such as Tigane, Kanana and Khuma. The prepaid system in Jouberton subjects members of the community to deductions made to their accounts when purchasing electricity. Prepaid users are regarded as indigent because most of them are unemployed and are dependent on social grants. South Africa is one of the countries which has a attractive constitution in the world, and it citizens are expected to live their lives in dignity. I visited one of our municipal pay point where I met a lady by the name of Morongwe Phakedi who is also suffering electricity units deductions every time when she purchases elecgtricity. Morongwe 52 years old she is unemployed and she lives with her mother, uncle and five children. There is no one working at the family and they are depending on her mother’s pension grant and her two children social grant. When I asked her how they are coping she told me that she does not see value for money they spent on buying electricity and added that they are struggling to make ends meet. She also said that the municipality is ripping them off because residents of Khuma do not pay their basic services and they purchase electricity directly from ESKOM and their units are not deducted.
I secondly visited Mr. Tony Meiring or Rate Payers Association and when I asked about the problem which the residents of Jouberton are facing he said ‘firstly the residents of Jouberton are supposed to be getting 70 free units if they have registered as indigents not 50 units that the City Council is providing, the Matlosana municipality is committing crime by even deducting electricity units from pre paid users’. He also stressed that basic services should not be confused with electricity because when resident’s accounts are made there is separate billings such as refuse removal, water and sanitation. He also mentioned that people who become victims of the whole system are poor members of the community like women and the elderly. He continued to say that the municipality is taking advantage of people because when this system was put in place there was no consultation made and people were not made aware and that there is no documentation in place to show that there was a Council resolution taken in order to make sure that they recover money of services rendered in a form of electricity units deductions.
In our interview he also mentioned that, even the contractor who has been appointed to cut off electricity in Jouberton should have not to be allowed to carry out his work because electricity is a basic need. So far the Matlosana municipality has treated the residents of Jouberton with disrespect because they did not even bother themselves to consult when they impose this system. Instead of the municipality to at least meet the residents of Jouberton half way, the benefits are being reaped by Khuma, Kanana and Tigane. With the current financial state our municipality find itself in, that leaves a lot to be questioned because we were declared bankrupt and it was placed under provincial government administration. On the 12th of September 2013, the municipality has again embarked on electricity cut off programme where they send young people to observe if residents have tempered with their electricity meter box and if they discover that a resident has tempered with the meter box, they cut off electricity supply. In other households they have even removed meter boxes, and members of those households have been told that in order for the municipality to reinstall their meter box an amount of R5000 should be paid before installation.
When one looks at the root causes of why people have resorted to such desperate measures, I think it becomes clear that the municipality has left people with no choice but to bridge their meter boxes. Because according to all the residents whose accounts are in arrears, for an example if a resident purchases pre- paid electricity of R 20 instead of them receiving 19.6 kilowatt, they only receive 8 kilowatt meaning that a resident is sold electricity worth R 8 and R 12 is reserved to service arrears for their basic services. This put a family of six to eight people in a difficult situation because with such limited electricity they cannot cope with their day to day energy requirements. The City of Matlosana need to introspect as to what is it that makes people to behave like that and come to a common ground with them, cutting off their electricity is like depriving them of their basic right. In order for people to be heard what exactly must happen? Protest and burn tyres or must people be violent to express their frustrations. Enough is enough!!!